A Lib Dem policy paper, ‘Preparing the Ground: Stimulating Growth in the Digital Economy’, recently published, argues that sections 17 and 18 of the DEA should be repealed. The other copyright provisions should not be commenced until it has been demonstrated that they are necessary and effective.
The paper advocates criminal prosecution of pirates rather than civil litigation. Piracy is a form of theft, it says. Since there is already legislation on theft, there is no reason why digital offenders should not be prosecuted under the criminal law in the same way as those who steal tangible goods. (Legally accurate, I would say, though not everyone would agree.) The paper frowns on rights-holders pursuing individuals ‘aggressively’. Instead they should put their efforts into education to tackle the culture of piracy. Labour, it says, focused on reducing piracy by ‘authoritarian means’. So civil litigation is ‘authoritarian’, while criminal prosecution is not? Rights-holders will be delighted to find the burden of dealing with illegal file-sharing being taken over by the police. Perhaps the Anti-looting Squad can take this on?
‘While it is difficult to “compete with free”, an essential part of any solution has to be to improve the quality of services provided legitimately,’ the paper predictably opines. Since most piracy is of hit songs and movies that are readily available, that box has already been well and truly ticked.
‘We are concerned about sites that sell material without having the right to do so, and would work with the advertisers on such sites, and the credit card companies, to cut off their sources of funding and reduce this harm.’ Not sure they’ve thought this one through.